Georgetown University School of Dentistry

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Georgetown University School of Dentistry
A vertical oval-shaped black and white design with a bald eagle whose wings are spread and who is grasping a globe and a cross with its claws. Around the seal are leaves and the numbers 17 and 89 appear on either side.
Seal of Georgetown University
Active1901 (1901)–1990 (1990)
Parent institution
Georgetown University
(School of Medicine until 1951)
AffiliationRoman Catholic (Jesuit)
38°54′42.7″N 77°4′37.4″W / 38.911861°N 77.077056°W / 38.911861; -77.077056

The Georgetown University School of Dentistry was the dental school of Georgetown University, located in Washington, D.C. The school was established in 1901 as a department of the School of Medicine and became a standalone school within the university in 1956. In 1987, the school stopped accepting new students and graduated its last class in 1990.



The dental program was formed in 1901, during the presidency of Jerome Daugherty,[1] with the acquisition by Georgetown of the Washington Dental College and Hospital of Oral Surgery on Massachusetts Avenue. The Washington Dental College were incorporated into the School of Medicine as the dental department. There were initially five faculty chairs of: techniques and orthodontia; dental histology and pathology; operative dentistry; oral surgery; and prosthetic dentistry.[2] Dr. William N. Cogan was elected as the school's first dean. In 1920, the first x-ray machine was installed in the dental school.[3]

The dental school was first housed at 920 H Street, N.W. in an annex to the medical school's building.[3] Two-thirds of the cost of this $5,000 addition was absorbed by the dental faculty while the remaining third was paid by the medical faculty.[2] The school then moved onto the main campus with the completion of the Medical-Dental Building on Reservoir Road in 1930, facilitating growth of both the medical and dental components.[4]


Front facade of a brick building with columns that has inscriptions above the entrance that read "School of Medicine" on the left and "School of Dentistry" on the right. In the foreground is a bronze statue.
Medical & Dental Building

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the dental department saw rapid growth, with many veterans enrolling under the G.I. Bill.[4]

In 1951, fifty years after the founding of Georgetown's dental program, the School of Dentistry was established as an independent school of the university. A Naval Reserve Dental Unit was created to study dentistry as performed in the United States Navy, the first of its kind in the country. Through the 1960s, the School of Dentistry put forth a pro-active effort to recruit women into the dental school; women were previously only admitted to the dental hygiene program, which trained them to become dental assistants.[4]

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Dental School operated several clinics that provided free dental care to patients. The Community Dentistry Programs sent dental students into the schools and communities of Washington, D.C. to render dental care. Students could also study abroad in Europe and Latin America to study foreign dental clinical care.[5]


By the late 1980s, dental schools nationwide were closing due to a variety of factors, and many others were downsizing. Price Waterhouse determined that by 1992, the Georgetown University School of Dentistry would be running an annual $3.6 million deficit. A number of reasons for this phenomenon were speculated, including: a decreased demand for dental care due to advances in technology and the widespread public adoption of fluoridation, an excess in the number of practicing dentists relative to the size of the population, the rising cost of tuition, and increasing numbers of prospective dental students seeking to attend medical school, leading to sharply declining dental school enrollment.[6]

On March 19, 1987, the Georgetown University Board of Directors voted unanimously to cease the operation of the school. The School of Dentistry shut its doors three years later, graduating its last class in 1990.[5] Students and faculty who were upset that the school did not consult them before making the decision to disestablish filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court.[7] The school's closure also prompted a congressional hearing.[8]

At the time of its closure, the school of dentistry was the second largest dental school in the United States behind the New York University College of Dentistry. It was also one of only twelve dental schools in the country not to receive federal aid, and had one of the highest costs of tuition at $15,000.[9] In total, the school graduated approximately 4,100 alumni,[10] and had 570 students at the time it announced its closure in 1987.[7]


  1. ^ Colby, Frank Moore, ed. (1915). The New International Year Book. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 198. OCLC 137374546. Archived from the original on September 10, 2019. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Dental Alumni History: 1900–1930". Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Georgetown University dental student with patient". 1935. hdl:10822/552729. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b c "Dental Alumni History: 1930–1960". Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Dental Alumni History: 1970–1980". Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  6. ^ Lewin, Tamar (October 29, 1987). "Plagued by Falling Enrollment, Dental Schools Close or Cut Back". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 20, 2016. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Suit Filed to Block Closing of Georgetown Dental School". The Washington Post. July 9, 1987. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  8. ^ Gordon, Larry (October 26, 1987). "Declining Rolls : U.S. Dental Schools Feel the Crunch". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  9. ^ Feinberg, Lawrence (March 24, 1987). "GU Defends Dental School Closure". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 3, 2018. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "Dental Alumni". Archived from the original on December 25, 2017. Retrieved October 3, 2018.